by Lori Chambers, Professor, Department of History and Women’s Studies, Lakehead University. Published with the University of Toronto Press, 2007.
This book is a study of the operation of the Children of Unmarried Parents Act, in the courts and, principally, through the agency responsible for administering the Act, the Childrens’ Aid Society. It explores the experiences of unwed mothers regulated under the Act through a large collection of case files, and in the process tells us a great deal about the operation of law at the level of everyday life. Very much a socio-legal history, Lori Chambers’ book also contributes greatly to our knowledge of the history of motherhood and the family, sexuality, and moral regulation. Chambers argues that despite the altruistic objectives emphasized publicly by reformers, the Act failed to eliminate the poverty and stigmatization faced by illegitimate children. She also suggests that that failure is not surprising because of the contradictions inherent in a legislative scheme that gave the CAS control of both securing payment from fathers and of providing babies for adoption.